Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Trans Atlantic by Colm McCann

I believe in the democracy of story-telling,” said McCann in an interview. “I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries. I feel humbled by the notion that I’m even a small part of the literary experience. I grew up in a house, in a city, in a country shaped by books. I don’t know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story. They’re the only thing we have that can trump life itself.”

McCann was born in Dublin in 1965 and began his career as a journalist in The Irish Press. In the early 1980’s he took a bicycle across North America and then worked as a wilderness guide in a program for juvenile delinquents in Texas. After a year and a half in Japan, he and his wife Allison moved to New York where they currently live with their three children, Isabella, John Michael and Christian.

McCann teaches in Hunter College in New York, in the Creative Writing program, with fellow novelists Peter Carey and Claire Messud.  The program is considered one of the finest in the country: only six students are accepted each year


About the Author

Author Website: http://colummccann.com/

“I believe in the democracy of story-telling,” said McCann in an interview. “I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries. I feel humbled by the notion that I’m even a small part of the literary experience. I grew up in a house, in a city, in a country shaped by books. I don’t know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story. They’re the only thing we have that can trump life itself.”

McCann was born in Dublin in 1965 and began his career as a journalist in The Irish Press. In the early 1980’s he took a bicycle across North America and then worked as a wilderness guide in a program for juvenile delinquents in Texas. After a year and a half in Japan, he and his wife Allison moved to New York where they currently live with their three children, Isabella, John Michael and Christian.
 
Reviews
 
 

1 comment:

  1. Anita introduced the book as follows:
    The story starts in 2012 in a Irish cottage by the edge of a lough (bay or inlet) as a woman wakes and listens to the gulls dropping shells on the slate roof. It ends in 2011 with Hanna in her cottage. It is implied that her guests Aoibheann and David Manyaki are writing an offer to purchase the cottage. In between, the book moves from 1919 to 1845 to 1998 to 2011 with somewhat interwoven stories of historical and fictional characters as they move back and forth between North America and Ireland.
    Anita also produced an interesting handout including a timeline of fictional and historical characters and comments from the U of C, Kaleidoscope November 2015 Book Lecture she attended. The speaker was Harry Vandeerville, Associate Professor of English Literature at the U of C.
    One book club member enjoyed the moving descriptions of what the characters were experiencing. An example of this is the flight across the Atlantic by Adcock and Brown when they felt like they were on the plane too. It could be described as cinematic, but in a good way. The flow of thoughts from private to outward action was seamless. “Ashes do not become wood” powerfully portrayed the failed marriage of Mitchell and was one of their favourite quotes.
    Another member didn’t like the book because they read for plot and so they were frustrated by all the changes in characters and time. The story would get interesting and then the chapter would end and the author would be on to another character and time period. They also didn’t like the literary writing style of short choppy sentences. Perhaps it was written to be made into a movie or miniseries?
    A third member liked this book and whenever they stopped reading, they were always looking forward to getting back to it. However, they would like to know what was in the letter. Because their father was an air traffic controller, they enjoyed the airplane parts particularly. They wondered why Douglas took so long to catch on to the Irish famine made worse by the English taking all the other food products at the time of the potato blight.
    Another reader enjoyed the language so much that they kept notes of some of their favourite quotes: “their scarves take first flight and then they hear the applause of branches below”, “nerves unbuttoned the length of his spine”. They also appreciated the survival of all these tough women following the zigzag line from one generation to another.
    Another member felt they were in the cockpit experiencing the weather, the smell of the ocean, the danger. Other books they have read written about this terrible time in Irish history don’t make you feel the way McCann does. Water was a theme that this reader noticed: gentle, powerful, reflective. The letter was like a pebble creating the ripple effect through society and history. Although they did find the transitions very abrupt they eventually became used to that literary technique. This member also appreciated the strong character development of all the women.
    One reader visited Belfast in1982 and drove around Bogside with their aunt who was a nurse for the IRA. The George Mitchell part of the story was even more fascinating because of this experience. They feel it’s a miracle that peace was achieved. They too missed the characters that were left behind and found many of the sentences too short.
    One member who hadn’t yet finished the book found the language very alluring: “It was a cold gray country under a hat of rain.” They had to look up some of the Irish terms to understand what was happening i.e. lough and plaidie.

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